Defense Department says no to arming service members at US bases

Two women mourn at a makeshift memorial near the Armed Forces Career Center, Saturday, July 18, 2015, for the victims of the July 16 shootings in Chattanooga, Tenn. The U.S. Navy says a sailor who was shot in the attack on a military facility in Chattanooga has died, raising the death toll to five people. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

Despite demands from the public and Congress to allow service members at domestic military installations to be armed — the Defense Department says it’s against the idea.  A disappointing announcement for many who point to the latest deadly attacks in Chattanooga as good enough reason to start making changes.

There’s been plenty of debate about this before. Members of Congress who would like our men and women in uniform to be armed, cited four earlier attacks since 2009, when gunmen killed and wounded military personnel at the Washington Navy Yard, the Pentagon in Virginia, a recruiting center in Little Rock, and at Fort Hood in Texas.

However, Navy Captain Jeff Davis says, “We do not support arming all military personnel for a variety of reasons.”  Davis added, “There are safety concerns, the prohibitive cost for use-of-force and weapons training, qualification costs as well as compliance with multiple weapons-training laws.”

Republican Senator from Kansas, Jerry Moran, introduced a bill that would repeal partial prohibitions on military personnel carrying firearms at domestic installations, according to McClatchyDC.

Two other Republican lawmakers proposed a narrower bill that would authorize one armed service member to be placed at a military recruiting center. The centers are vulnerable to attacks by extremists who want to do harm, since they’re usually located at shopping malls, high schools, universities and other public places, to encourage greater access.

A former Special Operations officer told McClatchy that arming service members would be a problem since many of them lack sufficient skills to carry loaded weapons.

Incoming Army chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said the Pentagon should weigh arming recruiters and other personnel.  “I think under certain conditions, both on military bases and in outstations, we should seriously consider it, and under certain conditions, I think it’s appropriate,” Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

A former New York City police officer suggested that the number of military police should be increased and more of them should be sent to recruiting centers.

Some Americans did not wait for Congress or the Pentagon to make changes. Armed citizens were standing guard at recruiting centers in Texas, Alabama, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin following the massacre in Chattanooga.

Army veteran Terry Jackson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “It was unacceptable for our soldiers, sailors, our men and women of the military to go over and serve and go into combat, and then come back here to the homeland and be gunned down on their home duty stations.”

Meantime, the FBI is treating the Chattanooga gunman—who was killed in the attack– as a homegrown violent extremist. And while agents are following up on 400 leads in the case, they warned against assuming that the shooter had been inspired by radical Muslims.


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